Archive | voting RSS feed for this section

It starts with us, not with “mais vous”…

12 Nov

Just a few months ago I met close friends of mine whilst travelling from Ibiza to Zurich. We spent the day meandering the streets of one of Europe’s most historical cities, walking plazas, cathedrals, and cobbled streets covered by the first leaves of an early autumn.

As with close friends, conversation comes easily, and inevitably we delved deeper into the goings on of our lives, and the world we are a part of. By lunch time we were already on to politics, and the inevitable discussions that shape French politics, and in particular the almost inevitable return of Sarkozy to the Elysyée come next election. This of course raised all kinds of questions of what it means to be Français; the transformation of French culture by waves of Maghrebian immigration from former French colonies, the persistence of le Front National, the inability for many immigrants to be French, simply because of their family name. Is France becoming more radicalized, or is this simply a trend being observed across the globe since the end of the stary eyed interlued following the fall of the Berlin Wall? My friends argued France certainly has an immigration problem, and the Arab muslims of France are a challenge to integrate, but it was more than that, it was…and then it came…”mais vous, vous…”

I was surprised, since I would have never imagined hearing it from such close friends, and I am certain they did not mean it. Their point was that Israel was responsible for the radical Arab Islam problem in France and in the world in general. I certainly took offense to their point, but elected not to debate it, since we only had a day and I wanted us to remain focused on making the most of our short time together. Friends have a right to disagree, and I am the first to jump at civil debate.

In the weeks since that day in France I have found myself thinking a lot about what they had to say. Is Israel really responsible for the ailments of the modern world, a clash between Western Civilization and current Arab Islam, a war of the worlds? Or is Israel simply a scapegoat for failed states, and mismanaged democracies? How could Israel be responsible for the failure of France to integrate its Arab Muslim population, many of these people who had arrived in France by the simple fact that their homelands had once been colonies of France?

One of the greatest arguments against the State of Israel is it is a continuation of European colonialism into a region that is Arab, an off shoring of the Jewish problem from the cities of Europe to the medinas of Arabia. Yet paradoxically, the first thing any tourist will notice when they arrive in Israel is that almost everyone looks like an Arab. This can be particularly disconcerting for a naive European anticipating a white society filled with white European Jews. One may ask, “why is Israel so brown, where are the white Jews  who stole the land from the Arabs?”

Well most of Europe’s Jews were gassed in Germany and Poland between 1939 and 1945, which radically diminished the number of “white” Jews. Also between 1955 and 1975 over a million Arab Jews fled an Arab Muslim world in the throws of revolt against European colonialism, becoming refugees in Israel, and overnight transforming the country into an “Arabesque” one. Walking the streets of Haifa, Tel Aviv, or any Israeli city, it is impossible to discern who is a Jew, a Muslim, a Bahia, or a Christian, just as it is impossible to tell who is a real “Israeli”. Yet walking the streets of Paris, or any French or European city, one knows who is Arab, and who is French, even if the “Arab” has been living there for generations, and the “Frenchman” is a white tourist from Louisiana with a french last name.

The revolts of Arab Muslims against Jews, who are considered an extension of Israel, is a serious problem in France, just as is the persistence of the Front National, and the arrogance of the Gauche, who believe France can somehow magically stay its path even though it has failed miserably in integrating its immigrants into a free, equal, and just society. France’s problems are not unusual, as eluded to in this post, this is a problem throughout the West, as rather than work hard at integrating immigrants into our societies, we prefer to focus on nationalism, tax cuts, and reducing essential government services.

My life partner recently became a Canadian, at the ceremony I was struck by how remarkable an exception Canada is to the laissez-faire of most Western democracies. Much was made of the beauty of Canada, its security, its high level of trust, and the peace we enjoy in our communities. The citizenship judge also said something more, and I quote, “none of this is free, indeed nothing is free. Canada is what it is because of the work of those who came before, who worked to build upon a land that had begun with the aboriginal peoples.”

She continued, “as Canadians you now have the responsibility to do your part, to contribute, to communicate with others who may not look like you, who may not worship the same way as you, who may not have the same mother tongue as you. It is important to vote, to take part in the civic process, to volunteer, and to meet people from all communities.”

Remarkable in its contrast with France, and much of the West, Canada realizes that in the immigration market place, Western Civilization is a tremendous draw for the talent of the world, yet Canada knows that bringing talent is but one part of the immigration pie, the other piece is integrating everyone into a free, just, and open society; so that rather than spawn suspicion, hatred, and violence, it builds trust, friendship, and peace.

In this day following Remembrance Day, I take this lesson, that it really is possible to make a just society, but it requires constant work as engaged citizens in our neighbourhoods and communities. Too many soldiers, civilians, and animals at war have been sent to their deaths for us to be lazy, to blame others for our problems, rather than us getting off our sofas to vote, volunteer, and reach out to others.


Music listened to while I wrote this: